Guest post: How vegans can rock out on zinc! »
I’m sure you’ve heard it all, vegans. “Where do you get your protein?” “But what about iron intake?” “Are you sure you’re getting enough calcium?” These questions often come up because of people’s misconceptions and incomplete information about vegan diets, and they can be annoying when you know that many omnivores aren’t getting all the nutrients they need.
But when you’re vegan, you will have to pay special attention to some nutrients—probably not protein, though—because they are harder to get from plant-based diets. That doesn’t mean they’re impossible to get, though, so read on so you can school the next person who tells you you can’t be healthy while being a herbivore.
Zinc is one such nutrient—a mineral, in this case—that you should keep an eye on. It’s an important one for your body; it’s involved in dozens of enzymatic reactions, needed for cell growth and protein synthesis, and important for your immune system—some studies have suggested that zinc supplements can help prevent and recover from colds. Helpful at this time of year!
This is why zinc can be tricky for vegans: Absorbing it from plant foods is more difficult than absorbing it from animal foods. The RDAs for zinc are 8 mg for women and 11 mg for men, which isn’t so high, but the authors of Vegan For Life suggest getting 12 mg for women and 16.5 mg for men to make up for lower absorption.
Fortunately, a lot of vegan-friendly foods do have some zinc content: A cup of Bran Flakes has 2 mg; a half-cup of cooked quinoa has 1 mg; two tablespoons of wheat germ has 2.7 mg; a half-cup of cooked adzuki beans has 2 mg; and two tablespoons of almond butter has 1 mg.
You can also use a few tricks to maximize your zinc absorption. Have some vitamin C with each meal, even just a squeeze of lemon. Coffee and tea can affect zinc absorption, so have yours between meals. Toast nuts before you use them, and sprout beans and grains. And go for whole grains instead of refined. (Bonus: these tips also help boost iron absorption!)
I think that one of the best things we can do as vegans is work to have a healthy diet, so we can show other people that this is a satisfying, ethical, and nourishing way to eat. And pass these tips for zinc along—it’s apparently cold now (still in denial) and we could all use the immune boost.
Terri Coles lives in Toronto, Ont., where she enjoys barbecuing, feeding feral cats, going to local music shows and getting really mad about hockey games. She blogs about her adventures in plant-based eating at The Vegina Monologues.
[Photo of adzuki bean and sun-dried tomato burgers from joanamendes via Flickr!]
If the government thinks we should eat more vegetables, why don’t they put cash money behind it? »
Veganism is more accepted than ever, and vegetarianism is downright mainstream, but I’m a realist: Herbivores are still in the minority. Further, we North Americans aren’t ingesting as many veggies as we ought to, and major health bodies have made statements to the effect that we should all give up processed meats and cut our red meat consumption considerably, at least for the sake of our health. So why is that so difficult? Money.
I’m sure you all saw the Myplate food diagram that was released by the USDA earlier this year as an update to the food pyramid. On the plus side, it recommended that people fill fully half of their plate with veggies, which is an impressive goal for anyone—vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore. The problem is that though the government tells people to choose vegetables often—definitely more often than now, since Americans eat about 50 percent more dairy products a year than veggies—they aren’t backing that suggestion up with money. Particularly in regard to agriculture subsidies, which play a huge role in what gets grown—and therefore eaten—around the country.
As the Washington Post explained recently, agriculture subsidies began in the 1930s to help farmers weather the Great Depression. It was an incredibly hard time for a lot of people, and food production was not globalized in the way it is today. What American farmers grew was, by and large, what American people ate.
Today the subsidies seem less useful, especially when you consider what they’re supporting—$200 billion was spent to subsidize commodity crops in the U.S. from 1995 to 2010, and about two-thirds of that went to cotton, tobacco, and crops used to feed animals. I think we can all agree that tobacco is not a crop that people need to live. Cotton is not a food crop either. Growing crops to feed livestock raised for food is far less efficient than growing crops to feed directly to humans. Farmers growing fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts don’t get direct subsidies at all. And a not-insignificant portion of the crops that are subsidized go towards uses like corn and other things grown to make sweeteners—again, directly opposite to the goal of getting people to eat more vegetables.
And yet, last week leading researchers, published in Nature, advised people to eat less meat if the world is going to have enough to eat. The researchers pointed out that even eating just one or two meatless meals a week will have an impact. I can see why people are confused: scientists say we need to eat less meat, the government says we need to eat more vegetables, but the dollars support meat and dairy, and give fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains the shaft. The best way around this is to exercise your consumer-power: Spend your money on vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, and whole foods.
If you’re looking to add more vegetables to your diet—an excellent goal!—check out this vegan food pyramid for guidance.
CLOSED! Vegansaurus Giveaway: Opti3 Omega-3 supplement! »
The lovely (and healthy!) folks across the pond at Opti3 were kind enough to ship over a sample of their fine product for an honest review, and the verdict is in: This is one heart-healthy, smart-making, mama-supporting, ass-kicking Omega-3 supplement! Opti3 is a 100 percent vegan, high-strength Omega-3 EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) supplement, which are considered essential fatty acids because our bodies don’t produce them on their own. These fatty acids ultimately affect the function of virtually every system and every cell in our body and are responsible for cell flexibility, nerve function, mood support, and even weight control. Basically, they’re SUPER-IMPORTANT.
Some less-evolved peeps may get their Omega-3s from eating the bodies of our fine-finned ocean friends, but Opti3 has eliminated the known risks (and environmental damage) of consuming fish—including the toxins—by creating a high-performance vegan formula.
More from the Opti3 website: All of the ingredients in Opti3 are 100 percent vegetarian- and vegan-approved. This includes the capsule itself, which is vegetable-based and gelatine-free. Opti3 is produced under pharmaceutical quality-controlled conditions.
You want to boost your overall health and support an awesome vegan company, right? OF COURSE YOU DO! You’re in luck - Vegansaurus and Opti3 are going to give away a FULL BOTTLE of Opti3’s newest, high-strength formula to three lucky readers! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post including another vegan source of Omega-3s. Yup, that’s it! You have ONE WEEK from post date to enter, and we’ll pick three winners at random. A bottle of Opti3 will be shipped directly to your door—it’s as simple as that. Get healthy and enter today! [images via Opti3]
Guest post: A book to actually help you stay a Vegan for Life »
A recent Psychology Today article stated that most vegetarians eventually go back to eating meat (I’d like to point out that this was based on a pretty small survey). I think one big reason why people give up the veg life is nutrition—not that it’s hard to have a nutritious plant-based diet, because it’s not, but because they don’t know how to. OK, and because they are sick of explaining how to nosy meat-eaters.
I’m sure fine Vegansaurus readers know that you don’t have to eat beef to get iron or drink milk to get calcium, and that there are plenty of awesome plant-based sources of protein. But do you know the why behind all of that? Not a lot of people do; after all, how many of the omnivores you know can rattle off a bunch of facts about the nutritional content of eggs, or tell you exactly how many grams of protein are in a serving of chicken breast? Not many. That is why you should pick up Vegan for Life, an awesome new book by dieticians Jack Norris and Ginny Messina. Your own health will improve, thanks to the excellent knowledge the book imparts to you, and you’ll be able to get your know-it-all on when someone dismisses your chickpea masala as void of protein.
The best thing about Vegan for Life is how even-handed the book is. Norris and Messina don’t make a bunch of nutty healthy claims, and they don’t pull facts out of their asses; they present the science and let it speak for itself. The nutritional breakdown of foods like tofu, black beans, and spinach are well known and can be proven; there’s no need to make that stuff up. This isn’t a book for hippies who think they can be sustained on sunlight and happy thoughts; it’s a common-sense guide to eating a healthy and varied plant-based diet. That approach makes it lot harder for naysayers to be dismissive.
Vegan for Life offers an easy way to eat to a healthy daily vegan diet, like a food pyramid for the cruelty-free. They talk about healthy vegan eating for all stages of life, from childhood to old age, and give a great guide to eating vegan while pregnant and breastfeeding. They also look at vegan diets for people with conditions like diabetes and heart disease. There’s something for everyone in here, and it all underlines the fact that vegan eating is healthy and feasible for everyone. The ethical reasons for eating vegan are outlined at the back of the book; if you already know, you already know, but readers who aren’t familiar with them will read about all the cruelty that a vegan diet avoids after already getting the facts on how awesome it is for their own bodies. Smart.
If you are vegan or vegetarian, you should get—and read!—Vegan for Life. I’m a health reporter, and there are still things in here that I didn’t know before I picked it up. If someone in your life has talked about reducing the amount of meat they eat, or trying to be vegetarian or vegan, this book is a great way to show them that it’s easier than they may think, and definitely really healthy. Go get it!
Terri Coles lives in Toronto, Ont., where she enjoys barbecuing, feeding feral cats, going to local music shows and getting really mad about hockey games. She blogs about her adventures in plant-based eating at The Vegina Monologues.
Vegansaurus does an Organic Avenue juice cleanse! »
Last week I embarked on a five-day Organic Avenue Lovedeep juice cleanse. I did it for a number of reasons: I wanted to “reset” my body and system after developing some bizarre and detrimental habits (daily venti coffee, unreasonable affinity for sugar and candy, pigging out at night and not eating anything in the morning, etc.); I wanted to observe the effect it had on my body and my training regimen (muay Thai, running, Bikram yoga, four jobs); and of course sheer curiosity. I consulted with the folks at OA and told them my intention was to maintain my usual life/training schedule during the cleanse, and after their approval, I booked the dates and kept my fingers crossed. I went to the pick-up location near my office on Monday and picked up a big silver box of fresh-pressed fruit and veggie juices. Inside were six 16-oz. fresh juices and one chlorophyll shot, my food for the day. Organic Avenue also sent me a daily email explaining the benefits of each juice, and offering a suggested drinking schedule and words of encouragement.
I didn’t finish the juices; I couldn’t stomach all of that juice every day. And since I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t necessarily need them. I’d usually keep them and enjoy them the following day, and I have three leftover juices now that the cleanse is over, which I definitely intend to drink before returning my bottles! The juices themselves ranged from totally scrumptiously delicious—orange, ginger lemonade, grapefruit, pear—to borderline undrinkable—chlorophyll shot, Young Love (spinach/celery/cucumber). Pick-up/drop-off was easy, the staff was cheerful and accommodating, and the simplicity of the whole process really made it run smoothly.
The first day was the toughest; my moods swung like crazy and I was impatient and irritable for most of the afternoon/night. I had a brutal headache from Starbucks withdrawal, craved salt, and generally felt unlike myself. I made it through the workday without too much drama, but that evening’s seven-mile run was undoubtedly tougher than usual, and I realized I’d need to take it easier in the gym over the week. With no carbs in my system I wasn’t my usual Energizer Bunny self. I got home from the gym that night and passed out on my bed before I could even take my shoes off.
I was definitely a little out of it when my alarm went off, but I packed up for the gym and sipped a cucumber juice on the way. Muay Thai class wasn’t too bad, though again I noticed my stamina wasn’t up to par. The following run, this time five miles, wasn’t as rough as the previous day’s, but I was huffing and puffing more than usual. Once at work I was actually feeling good; though still a bit foggy I was in better spirits and enjoyed the juices. I wasn’t nearly as cranky or tired when I got home, though I still slept like a rock.
I woke up feeling decent, made it to work and coasted through what was to be the best overall day of my cleanse—no hunger pangs, no headache, no mood swings, decent energy throughout the day—I’d even say I was chipper! There was an orange juice on the menu that day, and after living on spinach, orange juice is the GREATEST THING EVER. I felt like I was cheating! Feeling great, I made it into the gym that night and blasted through five rounds of full-contact sparring and an advanced conditioning class. I felt tired when I got home, but that’s normal for me on a Wednesday night.
I woke up feeling clear-headed and was off to the gym. I took it easy in muay Thai, having noticed a significant drop in my stamina and endurance, but I made it through just the same. My run was, again, grueling: I took walk breaks and was certainly not as fast as usual. Though my patience was wearing a little thin at this point, my mood was good. Work was busy and I stayed focused through the day, and enjoyed the delicious grapefruit juice. Into the evening, I was having elaborate, borderline-romantic food fantasies; I missed my precious food! Got home that night a little grumpy, but as usual passed the heck out swiftly.
While I generally sleep until about 1 or 2 p.m. on my Fridays off, this time I was wide awake soon after 11 a.m. Feeling great, I got ready to run some errands and packed a few juices along with me in my gym bag. I made it through the day feeling really good; my energy was up, I felt clear and enthusiastic and focused, and my body felt rejuvenated from the good night’s sleep. When I started that night’s training, however, everything changed. My run was dismal; I could barely keep it up for more than five minutes at a time, taking frequent walk breaks and watching other runners leave me in the dust. Muay Thai was equally pathetic; though I made it through three hours of training, I felt like I didn’t have a shred of life left in me. I got home that night and did my best to get a juice down as fast as possible before passing out.
Breaking the Fast
OA sent me an email with directions for my first day after the fast: I could eat as much as I wanted of one fruit of choice, and enjoy a big green salad for lunch and another for dinner, adding some roasted veggies if I so desired. I had some water, then enjoyed CRUNCHING into an organic Fuji apple before heading to the gym again. That day’s training was the worst of them all—I barely survived the run, and opted for a beginner muay Thai class. Even still, I was wiped out by the end and couldn’t wait to get home for my salad. I took a quick nap before I ate, and truly enjoyed every forkful of greens and tomatoes and beets and kale. It felt so good - almost scandalous!—to chew mouthfuls of food again.
I made it through five days of juicing without any major adjustments in my work/life/training schedule. I didn’t cheat once, I followed my plan, and I feel great. Though my stamina and endurance in the gym were significantly lower, my energy levels were the same and I really wasn’t tempted to cheat very often. Hunger was never a problem—if I craved food it was its flavor, texture, familiarity. My skin never broke out like crazy and my digestive system didn’t react too violently at all. I’m so glad I had the experience and I feel pretty great. I learned so much about my body and the fuel I put into it, the importance of complex carbohydrates and balanced proteins, the benefits of a raw organic diet, and how fuel affects mood. I am excited to make changes to my old habits. No, I won’t be cutting caffeine out of my life—I am a sincere and dedicated coffee-LOVER—but it will be decaf for the most part. When I crave something sweet I’ll opt for organic pineapple or fresh berries instead of Twizzlers and Swedish Fish. And I’ll fuel my body on a more regular basis rather than that abusive binge-and-starve pattern. This was an incredible, educational, rejuvenating experience and I can absolutely recommend it to anyone interested in a kick-start to good habits. Organic Avenue offers many different levels of cleansing, and supports you the whole way through. If I can do it, anyone can: you just have to want to!
[Organic Avenue provided me a five-day cleanse free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion. You can order your own cleanse on their website or by calling 212-358-0500. First image via Organic Avenue. Also, check out how Maria did on the Blueprint Cleanse. Vegan cleanses galore, people! Now, back to your regularly scheduled binging!]
Roger Ebert reviews Forks Over Knives! »
Roger Ebert has a review of Forks Over Knives up that’s worth reading. There are some truly insightful bits, but I really really really hate this part:
Hey, I’m not going all holier-than-thou on you. Think how fat I was for years. I knew the solution, I was weak and lazy. Over 12 years I was eventually able to lose about 70 pounds with a proper diet, but my current weight and superb physical condition can be attributed to my illness. I am unable to eat or drink anything, and my (therefore) perfect diet of canned nutrition has given me an ideal weight and incredibly good blood numbers.
Fat people aren’t “weak and lazy,” they’re JUST FAT. That’s all. Lots of fat people are quite healthy, just how lots of skinny people are quite healthy, and lots of “average-sized” people are quite healthy. Losing weight isn’t a health panacea that suddenly means you’ll live forever and be a better person and win the lottery, it’s just LOSING WEIGHT. That’s GONNA COME BACK ANYWAY. Sometimes the weight loss helps with certain health things, sometimes it doesn’t. Same with gaining weight! The deal is, your body will reset itself to the weight it wants to be eventually. I mean, how many people do you know who have tried to lose a large amount of weight (I’m talking more than 20 to 30 pounds) were able to keep it off for five years or longer? I bet that number is VERY small, if you can even think of anyone. Ebert is in the unique position of not being able to eat food—that sucks and is the worst and I completely feel for him, and it also makes it pretty easy to stay at goal weight, knowwhatimsayin?? Many of can eat anytime we’re hungry—that’s why there are fat vegans and skinny vegans and fat meat-eaters and skinny meat-eaters. If we have access to the amount of calories our bodies want, we’ll get as fat as our bodies wants to get. In fact, fat people are fairly awesome because if there’s ever a food shortage, our shit is gonna live way longer than the skinnies. Fat apocalyptic dance party, y’all!
Anyway, I’m off track, but the importance of a film like Forks Over Knives is that eating a plant-heavy vegan diet is healthier than eating the garbage that passes as “food” today. It’s a much more complicated issue than EAT AN APPLE, FATTY. Our entire food system—including food availability—is set up to fail our health, the health of the planet, and certainly the health of animals. Every step a person can take towards eating a diet less filled with animal products and more filled with fruits, veggies, and grains, the better. Let’s leave it at that, and quit making it a weight thing. I know GET SKINNY FAT-ASS is what motivates people to consume consume consume and cash is king and blah blah blah but I’ll still get upset every time I see shit like this and I hope you do, too. ALSO, I’m bummed to hear this from Roger Ebert, who I thought was a friend to fatties. Well, I guess I knew he was a self-loathing fatty when he gave fucking Shallow Hal a good review, but then I thought he came around! He’s got an ADORABLE chubbers wife and he’s always defending Gabourey Sidibe. I don’t quite understand his whole thing. Someone help me. Ludditerobot, you got anything?
Anyway, the rest of the review is right on, and he’s even switching to a liquid vegetable and fruit diet now, and that’s awesome. Roger Ebert is vegan, y’all. Maybe he’ll even write an all vegan version of his AWESOME rice cooker cookbook?? That would be neat.
Chow Down and All-Star Veggie Panel! It Was Crazy! »
[Can’t see the video? Watch it at Vegansaurus.com!]
Like I mentioned on Friday, I went to a screening of Chow Down on Saturday. The movie was good; I liked it. It was hokey as fuck with all these cartoons and shenanigans but it was informative and comprehensive despite the scientific subject matter. The film focuses on two men who are faced with surgery for heart disease. Instead of surgery, both men opt to work with Cleveland Clinic doctor Caldwell B. Esselstyn and follow a “plant-based diet.” The results are very impressive; both men hadn’t had a single coronary indecent since changing their lifestyle even though they were told they would die without surgery.
The other aspect of the movie that was very interesting is it really goes into the business of nutrition in America. It has a lot of information about the hold that the milk and dairy lobby has on the USDA and the huge conflict of interest the government organization has when it comes to being a.) responsible for national nutrition recommendations and b.) in charge of promoting American agriculture. The film interviews the woman who created the first food pyramid and even then, the main component of the recommended diet—the bottom of the pyramid—was supposed to be fruits and veggies. The government rejected that and replaced the bottom with good old American grain. Ultimately, the first food pyramid was bagged altogether under pressure from the meat industry. What a tangled web we weave!
Guess what else: it was made by some Philadelphians! I knew the one guy in the movie was Philadelphian as soon as he opened his mouth. Hilarious.
So that’s the movie; it was fine, good even. But THEN! It was time for the Q&A with the all-star panel! This is when things took a turn for the awful. OMG I think I hate vegans! I know, I can’t believe I said that but these people were kooks! And so like cocky and self-promoting! Maybe I’m overreacting; it wasn’t really the panel that got to me, it was more the Q than the A. The panel included Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary; Michael Parrish Dudell of Ecorazzi; Simone Reyes, some chick that’s on Running Russell Simmons (haaa, that was a hilarious inclusion); Victoria Moran, super-author; Alexandra Jamieson, super-author, Top Chef veganizer, and co-star of Super Size Me; and Gary Null, crazy-ass mofo. Also on the panel were Julia Grayer and Gage Johnston, the filmmakers.
I really liked Jamieson and Moran; Dudell was good and I liked him, but he said he would be a strict moderator and ended up being a total nancy. That was the problem: crazy people in the audience kept hijacking the discussion! They would make these barely understandable rants with the only question being like, “What are your thoughts on my rant?” I forgot how much I hate Q&As! I used to go to them for films all the time when my mom worked at the Philly Film Festival. You have these really interesting people there but all you end up hearing all about are the trials and tribulations of various audience members trying to get funding for their own projects. It’s the same with authors: “But how do I get my book published?” Oy! Give me a break.
The crazy audience was only half the problem; the other half? Crazy-ass Gary Null. Oh my god, I did a face-palm whenever he started talking. He’s a complete nut. Like Christopher Walken on crack. He only made sense half the time and he kept talking about getting people to be vegan through spirituality, which just isn’t my bag. The worst was that he was like making sermons with dramatic pauses and bringing in Martin Luther King and crap. And he kept directing his rants at the panel too—who the eff are you to lecture them? If I were the panel, I’d be like, Screw you, bro. And he barely let anyone else talk.
One theme that emerged in the questions was about inclusion and how to unite vegans; THEN at the end, this woman who organized the event came up to speak about this initiative she organized called NYC Goes Vegan. The whole event was supposed to kick off the start of this 21-day challenge. Granted, she was not the most eloquent and she really didn’t promote her initiative very well, BUT! The same people who were talking about uniting vegans and asking what we can do to reach the mainstream started talking straight-up shit on this woman WHILE she was talking! She was a very attractive, model-looking woman and she looked about 26—though she’s actually 38—and made a comment about facing old age and the older women around me like ‘bout had a mutiny! And they were talking trash on her “Valley Girl” speech. Is that how you spell inclusion?! Just petty. I was shocked. I wanted to stop being a vegan just to spite these people! Don’t worry, still vegan (I know you were worried).
Basically, your friend Megan was about to bust heads. It was a shame. I wanted to hear more from the filmmakers, like why they avoided the word “vegan” in the movie, and if the doctors are hesitant to talk about veganism and deliberately stick to “plant-based diet.” I would have also liked to hear a lot more from Moran, she was kind of awesome but didn’t speak much.
The movie was pretty good though and you can actually watch it RIGHT NOW on hulu. It’s only an hour long, you can handle it.
Vanilla Ice goes vegetarian! »
That’s right people, Vanilla Ice has been vegetarian for three whole months and he’s loving it! Homeboy has cholesterol problems and decided to get his diet in shape, with impressive results!: “I tried being vegetarian for three months, and it brought my cholesterol from over 300 to 133 without drugs.” Hot damn! That means nothing to me but seems really good! Maybe if he went vegan, he’d really be ahead in the cholesterol game, seeing as the great majority of cholesterol comes from meat and animal by-products.
[can’t see the video? watch it on vegansaurus.com!]
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call this a national treasure. Who remembers it?!